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Fault Lines

Police presence in schools and zero tolerance could be sending students on a path to prison.

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00:31:00

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San Francisco, CA, USA

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Comcast Cable

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Channel v107

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mpeg2video

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ac3

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720

PIXEL HEIGHT
480

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Texas 8, U.s. 2, Jazeera America 2, Jennifer 1, Nouri 1, Peacing 1, Jennifer Torres 1, Al Jazeera 1, Mashable 1, Theo Holmes 1, Ali Velshi 1, Javier Alvarez 1, Jimarquez Holland 1, New Al Jazeera America Mobile 1, London 1, Ukraine 1, Iraq 1, Us 1, North Carolina 1, North Houston 1,
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  Al Jazeera America    Fault Lines    Police presence in schools and zero tolerance  
   could be sending students on a path to prison.  

    June 18, 2014
    1:30 - 2:01pm EDT  

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closely. >> thank you very much. thanthank you for watching al jazeera america. "fault line" is next. a reminder you can always check us out 4 hours a day at www.aljazeera.com where the news never stops. >> we're here at the darrington unit, which is a maximum security prison on the outskirts of texas. >> jimarquez holland is 20 years old. he's been imprisoned here for three years. >> to me, i feel like what i was doing was petty. petty crimes - i never thought in a million years that i would be 17 and in prison. never thought.
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whenever the judges said, we send you to prison, i couldn't even believe it. >> his criminal record began when he was in just sixth grade. police officers in his school gave him tickets for misbehavior, including smoking cigarettes. >> just hanging out with the wrong people. just not thinking with my head when you're young. >> he's here because of a burglary charge. when he was sentenced, the judge factored in his juvenile record, which included his misbehavior in school. >> instead of dealing with troubled students in traditional ways like counseling and detention, more schools are enforcing zero tolerance policies - and depending on law enforcement to carry them out. >> it's known as the school to prison pipeline. >> we've taken the same failed policies that have led to mass incarceration, and we're using
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them in schools throughout the country. >> in this episode of fault lines, we travel to texas - one of the top states in funneling students from schools to jails. >> for many students, the journey to prison can begin at the start of the school day. in texas, if you're late to school three times, that's considered an unexcused absence. under state law, a student with ten unexcused absences faces fines up to 500 dollars, and a warrant to show up to truancy court.
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if the student can't pay the fine by the time they turn 17, they can face time in prison. jennifer torres is in her last year of high school. she owes more than 7,000 dollars in fines for truancy. she said was late to school, in part, because she worked nights as a janitor to help support her family. >> the other night i didn't leave work till like 1. >> so you get home and you're in bed by what, 2? >> i still have to shower, yeah. >> 2? yeah. and then what time are you supposed to be at school in the morning? >> well, i wake up at 5 just to get ready and stuff. >> 5? >> yeah, so it's really not that much sleep. >> can you walk me through how many classes that you've missed, or how many absences that you have? >> a little over a hundred. but it was in the last 4 years. >> over a hundred over four years? >> yeah, they actually came to school, they pulled me out of class and they got me and they told me to come with them and i
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was like, i was surprised. because i didn't know about this. they told me they had 2 warrants out for me and i was like, for what? and they said truancy. and they kind of took me to jail for a while. >> i mean if you're trying to get somebody to go to school, why take them out of school. why put them in jail to miss more school, you know? i think it's pointless. >> jennifer's family can't afford to pay the fine, so she is doing community service to discharge the debt. if she doesn't, she may have to spend the summer in jail. >> we try to work hard for pay bills, house, pay taxes, and extra 7,000 dollars is crazy. statistics show that zero tolerance polices target the most disadvantaged youth. black students are more than
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three times as likely to be suspended or expelled as their white peers. hispanics and those with disabilities also face harsher punishments. students routinely get police-issued misdemeanors for things that used to mean a trip to the principal's office >> we're seeing an over-reaction to childish behavior. we're seeing racial profiling in our schools, in our hallways, of young people of color who are seen to be threats, so all of these kinds of over reactions push us to have these policies and practices in schools, that lead to pushing young people out, pushing them into the juvenile justice system, and into the criminal justice system. >> many of the criminal citations are handed out for minor infractions, like dress
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code violations. these cases happen all over the country, and often the most absurd ones make the news. >> small children cited for throwing paper airplanes flipping the teacher off criminal citations for cussing in class 14-year old girl charged with disorderly conduct for repeatedly text messaging during class. small paring knife in lunch box gets north carolina student suspended for the rest of her senior year. one teenage student arrested for pouring milk on his girlfriend more than a thousand tickets were issued to primary school children over the past six years in texas several districts ticketed a six year old at least once. >> critics say resorting so quickly to the criminal justice system alienates students from the school system, makes them more likely to drop out and end up in prison. >> we're in north houston right
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now. we're just going to meet a young man. theo is the guy's name and he's had all sorts of run-ins with the justice system starting in school. >> theo holmes is 19 years old. he served 3 years in a juvenile facility, mostly because of tickets he received from cops at his school. >> i think my first ticket was minor possession of tobacco, i believe. after that ticket i was like man, what you all going to do to me, ticket was $300 i ain't going to do community service. 14, 15, years old, you know what i'm saying? what you going to do to me? yall going to take me downtown or take me home? >> he says his mother kicked him out of the house at the age of 12. and his father was not in his life. the punishments at school didn't help theo get back on track. he ended up in juvenile detention. now, when he's ready to get his
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life together, his juvenile record stands in his way. >> so can you tell me how having the probation and the record is affecting you know? >> it's affecting me a whole bunch because it's like i can't get no job. you know what i want to do, i want to be in international business, but at the same time i can't get nobody to even hear me talk or hear my story. they don't want to hear me out. now they looking at me like damn you a hoodlum. i can't hire you. >> so when you go back and you think about where it all started, is it fair to say that it did start with the infractions in school that you got ticketed for? >> man, it been started. it been started. in texas, if you a minority in the state of texas ain't nothing for you. or you come from poverty you got no one that, black, white brown, pink blue, ain't nothing for you. you know what i mean. it wouldn't nothing to help us prepare for the real world. it helped us prepare for jail
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>> guns... >> there are two to three million guns in a population of only 8 million people. >> ...and gun laws... >> after those laws came in,
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there have been no more mass shootings... >> how different countries decide... >> their father had a gun... their grandfather had a gun... >> who has the right to bear arms? 5 days: guns around the world a primetime news special series all next week only on al jazeera america >> with every horrific school shooting in the u.s., there are calls for more police officers in schools. but more police means students are more likely to be written up for misbehavior...and eventually end up in prison. the federal government provides tens of millions of dollars a year to fund these officers in schools across the country. >> every time we have a school shooting ,we actually realize that there was a young person in need and they weren't in need of a police officer. they were in need of an adult
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who could have talked to them, who could have counseled them, who could have deferred them to resources that they may have needed that weren't available in the school. >> across texas, police officers like javier alvarez, spend their days patrolling school campuses. in 2013, they wrote over 100,000 misdemeanor tickets. >> how do you make the distinction between a group of kids sitting around a vehicle harmlessly hanging out and something where you're actually going to roll up and talk to them a bit? >> these kids right here they saw us, they saw me turn away and i saw them when we turned into this alleyway. it was obvious they were not trying to hide something or start walking away. it's the ones that when they see you they turn around and start fiddling with their fingers. those are the ones you want to talk to >> what do you think of the school to prison pipeline? is that reflected in your experience? >> what's being said that kids
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that get in trouble with police in school are more likely to go to prison later, well how can that be? if you're destined for a life of crime, then that's in your system. that's in your blood. a lot of this stuff comes from the families. >> chief of police victor araiza is in charge of security at over 100 facilities in the el paso school district. he says teachers and administrators rely too much on police to solve their problems. >> children that can be problematic on a campus, the objective sometimes from faculty and staff is to have them removed, have them disciplined, have them sent to alternative schools. and the mechanism, the tool to accomplish that, is a police report, or some type of a document that says this student is so unruly that he can no
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longer be kept at this campus and he needs to be cited, he needs to be charged with a criminal offense and officer, you need to do that and help me. >> we tried to talk to dozens of teachers in texas, but only one agreed to speak with us: anna sifford - who has taught high school social studies for seven years. >> i see that teachers have neglected to figure out a way to handle a lot of problems on their own that they used to. things that were up to the teacher before are now a phone call away. >> how many of your peers are just picking up the phone and calling the school resource officer? >> i'd say the majority of teachers are doing that. definitely 75% out of all of us, if i just want to make a rough guess doing that, because they go in with a set lesson plan and when the kid doesn't want to do it , what do i do i get him out of my classroom. >> one thing we sort of heard as a criticism is that well, they are cops, you put one in a school they are going to start policing and all of a sudden they will start ticketing things, enforcing laws in a way
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that wouldn't normally happen and so you have a higher likelihood that the young people in school will be criminalized. is that something that you've seen borne out? >> there are sros that i've heard from colleagues of mine that write them every five minutes. you know, if there's a problem, write a ticket, problem, write a ticket. and that's where the kid ends up in court, and the tickets are being written to families that are not going to be able to afford them to pay them. that's why the kid ends serving the time. >> getting troubled students out of the classroom often means sending them to what's euphemistically called an "alternative school." at lincoln middle school, it's just a group of classrooms that are segregated from the rest of the school. >> alternative is here from morning until the afternoon when they leave. >> so they don't change classrooms? >> they don't change classrooms. they have one teacher. every middle school has an alternative...
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>> so out of a thousand students here, there's never more than say... >> right now we have about 12... >> what's with the most wanted and the mug shots? >> funny you may have to mention that. two of those kids used to be here in alternative. it's to let these kids know that hey, you know. this kid was always getting into trouble. >> critics say alternative schools can actually backfire because they're grouping together troubled students, labeling them as "bad" and isolating them from their peers. students can also fall back academically because the lessons aren't as rigorous. >> this is just a mild form of incarceration and we let those kids know that. >> school districts have to make choices. they have limited resources and unfortunately we see too many school districts rushing to get a police officer with a gun and
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a badge instead of a counsellor. should juvenile killers serve life without parole? >> the didn't even ask for the money they just shot him. >> horrendous crimes committed by kids. >> i think that at sixteen it's a little too early to write him off for life. >> should they be locked away for good? >> he had a tough upbringing but he still had to have known right from wrong.
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>> fighting back. iraq's army repel on a key oil refinery as the government calls for u.s. airstrikes. >> the latest the iraqi moment nouri al-maliki promised to teach the sunni fighters a lesson. you're watching the al jazeera news hour live from london. also, peacing for peace in ukraine. president p